Coronavirus: Springfield restaurants reopen indoor dining

Several Springfield restaurants reopened their indoor dining areas on Thursday, some for the first time since state shutdown orders in March.

Business was mostly slow at several Springfield chain and locally-owned restaurants during lunchtime, but staff and patrons were glad for the return to the familiar, although with modifications for social distancing and other safety requirements handed down by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

While several patrons kept asking and hoping downtown restaurant Stella Bleu Bistro would reopen, co-owner and chef Darin Mitchell said he’s been cautious to make sure to conform to the rules and give patrons the experience they expect.

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“We’re dealing with it and hope the people will come back,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell installed glass partitions in between the booths to keep patrons safe as one precaution and requests patrons enter one door and exit through another. The restaurant may open its outdoor dining area for the first time this weekend.

Down the street, Fratelli’s Famiglia Ristorante, which specializes in Italian fare, was open barely a month when the shutdown order came. It was preparing for diners Thursday. Co-owner Pete Catanzaro said carryout was still steady and pointed out the modifications done to the dining room to conform with social distancing.

Catanzaro and Mitchell attributed Thursday’s slow start to many downtown businesses remaining closed. The restaurant owners are hoping Memorial Day weekend will bring more business back.

Stella Bleu does most of its business later in the day, where reservations are suggested, and had several for Saturday according to Mitchell.

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Fortunately for Caitlin Mershon and daughter Brooklyn, they were able to walk in and get a table at Stella Bleu around 12:30 Thursday. It was their first time there in between dental appointments.

“I forgot today was the opening,” Mershon admitted while scanning the menu. “I’m excited to be out and ready to be back to normal.”

Rudy’s Smokehouse was ready for inside dining Thursday. Rita Dornon and her husband, Frank were among diners at the restaurant.

Takeout service was still available at Rudy’s and some customers took that option.

O’Conners Irish Pub had an enthusiastic reception last week with the opening of its outdoor dining area and is now open indoors. Bartender Ciera McDermott said the reception was strong for the outdoors and a little slower on Thursday inside but positive.

Darrel Daniel of Springfield sat at O’Conners’ bar for a lunch date. He was ready to finally leave the house and enjoy some garlic wings.

“It’s nice to get out. I missed my birthday in March when things closed,” he said.

Daniel admitted he wasn’t sure about the precautions, but entered O’Conners with his face covering and prepared to follow whatever rules were necessary.

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Bob Evans on Tuttle Road, one of the first businesses to reopen on Thursday at 7 a.m. for breakfast, was also experiencing slower traffic. Assistant Manager Alice Bernow said those who did come were glad to be back along with her fellow employees after just offering carryout options.

Some of the businesses reached new customers with carryout offerings, including O’Conners and Fratelli’s during the quarantine, with some owners such as Mark Hamilton of Ole Brick Tavern hoping that will keep people coming in for items such as its signature Southern Brick Burger and maybe eventually come in to dine or have a drink.

“We’ve had a lot of people we hadn’t seen,” he said. “We’re happy to see them.”

Ole Brick is a place where everybody knows each other, looks forward to seeing each other and is glad to have outdoor, indoor and takeout all available, Hamilton said.

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